Lipotropic Nutrients for Fat Loss
By Cassandra Forsythe-Pribanic, PhD, RD
There are certain nutrients in our diet that prevent us from accumulating fat in places we definitely don’t want it, like our liver.
These nutrients are called lipotropic factors and their major role in our body is to enhance fat metabolism and avoid fat build-up in our essential organs.
At the same time, they can help you win the battle against a widening waistline and make you feel more comfortable in your “skinny” jeans. To get them, you have to eat the right foods on a regular basis (and, by ‘right’, I mean whole eggs and unprocessed foods), and benefit from supplements that contain them in ideal proportions.
The most important of these lipotropic nutrients include choline, inositol, and methionine.
Before we expand on their functions, let’s first look at why you should be more concerned than you probably are about fat accumulation in your liver.
Fat Liver, not Fat Albert
It’s been estimated that 70-100 million Americans are walking around with excess fat in their livers. For some of them, this condition has been induced by alcohol abuse, but for just as many others, it’s more a result of excess carbohydrate and simple sugar intake (nutrients that your liver loves to turn into fat when taken in more quantities than the body needs) coupled with lack of important nutrients.
Because we live in a society where carbs and sugar are the staple of most people’s diet (think cereal, sandwiches, chips, pasta and dessert), it’s easy to see why our guts and thighs are not just over-fat, but so are our livers.
Our livers are needed for everyday basic functioning and perform over 500 metabolic actions. It’s major roles include helping us breakdown dietary fat with the use of bile (which it creates), converting sugars to fat, helping make amino acids, producing hormones, and detoxifying our bodies. If our livers become overloaded with fat, these basic functions can be altered or discontinued.
It may be surprising, but for the many people that have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), not all of them are overweight or obese (like our 1970’s Fat cartoon friend, Fat Albert), and many have no major symptoms at all other than being tired, retaining water, or feeling weak. Even elevated liver enzymes are not always seen (which you would expect with all that fat).
As mentioned, excessive sugar intake has been related to NAFLD – it’s been found in a person who drank more than 20 bottles of full-sugar soda every day and ate very little fat (Zelmn S, 1952). However, it also occurs as a result of a diet deficient in the lipotropic nutrients, especially choline and methionine (Harper & Benton, 1955)
Choline, Inositol and Methionine to the Rescue!
Although not technically a B-vitamin, choline is considered one because of its essential role in metabolism – especially the breakdown and removal of fats. Some of it can be made in the body from the two amino acids methionine and serine, but much of it comes from our diets.
Choline works synergistically with the other lipotropic factor inositol to shuttle fat produced in the liver, or eaten in our diets, in VLDL particles to be burned for energy by our cells. Thus, if we lack these nutrients, it impairs our ability to take fat out of our liver and send it into the blood stream to be excreted or used to make energy.
Evidence for the role of choline and methionine in protecting the liver goes back at least half a century, when researchers showed that lack of choline and methionine caused liver fatty infiltration (Harper and Benton, 1955).
Choline is found in highest quantities in egg yolks, liver, and wheat germ, with smaller amount found in nuts, fatty meats and vegetables. Inositol is found in similar foods, as well as milk and some whole grains.
Considering that our fat-phobic society avoids egg yolks and fatty meats, and that eating liver is not very pleasant, it’s no surprise that we are lacking these nutrients and as such more and more people are being diagnosed with fatty liver disease.
One good thing is that we can use methionine, which is an amino acid found in foods containing protein, to make more choline, but it may not be enough alone.
The amount of choline needed to protect our livers depends on if you’re a man or a woman; the dose recommended for men is 550 mg/day and for women, 425 mg/day. Considering that egg yolks contain 125 mg choline and they’re the highest sources, you’re probably not getting enough.
The recommended intakes for inositol has not yet been set, and no adverse effects have been seen with doses of as much as 500mg. Adequate intakes of methionine are often achieved in most people’s diets.
Fat Loss with Lipotropic Nutrients
In relatively healthy people, getting adequate choline, inositol and methionine from both diet and supplements can help prevent fat accumulation in your liver and fight against widening fat cells in your body. Including foods like egg yolks, nuts, seeds, meats, fish, poultry and wheat germ on a daily basis while avoiding sugary foods and high carbohydrate foods, will definitely help you achieve a healthier, and leaner body than you’ve ever had before.
* About NAFLDL https://www.liverfoundation.org/downloads/alf_download_194.pdf
* Quality of Life in Adults with NAFLD, Hepatology, 2009: https://www.liverfoundation.org/downloads/alf_download_855.pdf
* The liver in obesity. Zelman S, 1952. AMA Arch Intern Med. Aug 90(2).
* Observations on some Nutritional Factors that Influence the Lipotropic Activity of Methionine. Harper & Benton, 1955: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1215935/?page=1
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